There is so much to say about Libya. What should strike you is just how much our national narrative of the last five years has been revealed to be utter bullshit. We have told ourselves pleasing lies about how we are now restrained where we were once aggressive, disciplined where we were once headstrong, wise where we were once rash. We had been through the fires in Iraq, and by god, we had changed.
Well. There was that.
Now we are jumping into another misadventure in the Muslim world with literally less than a couple days of anything resembling public deliberation. We are doing it because we have decided once again that we have the wisdom to peer into endlessly complex foreign political affairs and immediately sort good from bad. We are doing it because we have decided once again that when we have sorted good from bad in foreign countries we have the right to enter those countries by force and set things the way we want them. We are doing it because we have decided once again that imposing our decisions from across the sea on a foreign populace can, absurdly, be called "supporting democracy." I don't know what you might call this country. But we're committing military force to choose sides in a civil war without one word of Congressional deliberation and nothing resembling a coherent public debate. No talk of restraint, discipline, or wisdom, when referring to this nation, please. Never again. We will fly off the handle and lob ordinance wherever and whenever we get the urge, and we will do so totally convinced of our perfect ability and our beautiful, benevolent righteousness.
I believe in the importance of internal resistance movements. I believe in them precisely as long as they remain internal, because I understand, as so many seem not to, that it is a blatant and ridiculous contradiction in terms to enforce democracy by foreign military aggression. You cannot enforce democracy from without. Self-determination is the non-negotiable precondition for democracy. After we have installed our Vichy democracies, they tend to operate as you would assume such governments would. You only have to ask the minority parties of Iraq, which have reported again and again that they are excluded, marginalized, and oppressed, up to and including the disappearance of protesters.
I believe in resistance, but that doesn't mean I believe in good outcomes coming from all resistance. And this is the fundamental error, among so many, of the supporters of Libyan revolution, or of the supposed "pan-Arab" uprising: they look to this incredibly complex phenomenon, made up of a shifting multitude of actors and interests, supported by foreign powers both near and far, which proceeds in fits and starts towards whatever goal the aggregate of its parts supports at the moment... and they pronounce it good. With their child's view of the world, with their infantile Manicheanism, they feel that the must sort all actors at all times into the piles of good and bad. With their American arrogance, they believe that they actually possess the wisdom and knowledge capable of performing such a feat. With their imperial hubris, they believe that this knowledge gives them the right to impose their judgments with force and by fiat, and they will do so even while they know that doing so will kill innocent people. That's the condition of the contemporary American.
For me, I have far less faith in my own ability to sort out the realities of foreign affairs. I have far less belief in my own righteousness. And I know that the fundamental principles of noninterference and self-determination exist in large part because human beings lack such perfect, divine knowledge and righteousness.
You must ask yourself whether you live in a country that is so in possession of the Truth that it should be adjudicating winners and losers in foreign civil wars. And you must ask yourself what it means that we have convinced ourselves yet again that we are, despite the pile of bodies that tells us otherwise. When people speak of American decline, they never tell the most important story: that we refuse to learn any lessons.